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  1. #1
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    Cup and cone vs. sealed bearing type hubs

    Newb question....

    I just watched several YouTube videos on servicing hubs and the question about which type of hub design is "better," or perhaps more properly, what are the pros and cons of the two designs.

    The biggest con for sealed bearings seemed to be that in order to check/replace them you need special tools for driving them out/in.

    The cup and cone ones seem to allow for relatively easy cleaning and cheap replacement of the ball bearings.

    In researching a new wheelset, it seems like ALL the higher-end hubs: Hope, CK, i-9, Hadley used sealed bearings, so maybe cup and cone are headed for oblivion.

    Practically speaking, for myself, it probably doesn't make much difference, but I do have a choice of getting a Shimano XTR M988 rear hub in the 12x142mm size. This is a high-end hub also, but uses cup and cone. I'll probably still end up with Hope EVO hubs since they seem to offer the best combo of performance/price, but I started wondering whether the cup/cone design on the XTR's might offer any advantage.
    The secret to mountain biking is pretty simple. The slower you go the more likely it is you'll crash. ~Julie Furtado

  2. #2
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    Probably opening a can of worms (like SRAM vs Shimano and so on) but from my own personal experience of owning many of both types and also eight years of being a mechanic they both have merits. As a general rule of thumb, the cup and cone versions (Shimano being the only high end manufacturer, most are lower end) require more maintenance but are also easier to repair and get parts for (axles, cones, bearings). Cartridge bearings are less maintenance (but NOT maintenance free) but also may take more effort to get the correct bearings and some models require model specific tools to do the work.

    I would not hesitate to use XTR hubs, they are as solid as any other boutique hub brand.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker72 View Post
    Probably opening a can of worms ....
    You're probably right....

    I would not hesitate to use XTR hubs, they are as solid as any other boutique hub brand.
    Seems like the Hopes keep coming out as the best bang for the buck. Almost $100 less than the XTR's, and that probably outweighs any cost/ease of maintenance issues. I don't know what justifies the CK's, I-9's--lots of points of engagement and just overall bling/quality.
    The secret to mountain biking is pretty simple. The slower you go the more likely it is you'll crash. ~Julie Furtado

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Porschefan View Post
    I don't know what justifies the CK's, I-9's--lots of points of engagement and just overall bling/quality.
    Well for King everything is done in house (including bearings) in the Portland, OR and their freehub system is easily the best design on the market. But you do pay...

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker72 View Post
    Well for King everything is done in house (including bearings) in the Portland, OR and their freehub system is easily the best design on the market. But you do pay...
    Funny that this should come up now. There's a set of USED 819's with CK hubs available--on the classified here, I think. Seller is asking $430. I can get NEW 819's w/Hopes for ~$600 from Red Barn. The CK's are tempting, but there's the matter of getting the adapters for 15 & 12MM through-axles, plus the risk of the wheels being *really* used.... I often get into trouble when I get tempted by "bargains"--OTOH sometimes things are really no-brainers. Do you know if there is any limit to backward compatibility on CK's as far as getting the adpater kits goes?
    The secret to mountain biking is pretty simple. The slower you go the more likely it is you'll crash. ~Julie Furtado

  6. #6
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    http://chrisking.com/specs/hubs_all

    Standard ISO front should be convertible to 15mm and the rear to 142 x 10mm according to the chart

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker72 View Post
    http://chrisking.com/specs/hubs_all

    Standard ISO front should be convertible to 15mm and the rear to 142 x 10mm according to the chart
    72--thanks! I've been to the CK site a few times and missed this chart. Bookmarked now.
    The secret to mountain biking is pretty simple. The slower you go the more likely it is you'll crash. ~Julie Furtado

  8. #8
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    I went front sealed bearings years ago after a few cup and cone hubs died quite early on but couldn't afford Pro 2 rear prices, 5 years in my front wheels are still going fine, huge saving in replacing hubs / wheels.

    Only just started to go Sealed ( Halo Freedoms ) on the rear, XT cup and cones failing badly, axles snapping/bending, cones coming loose mid ride, I've given up on them but not enough time of the Halo's to see if there any better, but I think they will be.

    Mavic Sealed bearing hubs on the crossrides lasted well.

  9. #9
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    The biggest draw back to cup and cone hubs is maintenance. It MUST be done a bit more often than cartridge bearing hubs, and it must be done regularly. If not you are likely to pit or ding up the cups. The cups are not replaceable like the cones. Once the cups are damaged the hub is pretty much done. Over the course of a season of riding the individual balls will become dinged and flat spotted. Riding them for too long after this occurs will mess up the cups as well as the cones. So regular maintenance is critical with a CC hub. But they will last a long time as long as you do the maintenance. I've got Shimano XT hubs that are going on 8 years old and still going strong.

    The big plus with a quality cartridge bearing hub is easier and a bit less maintenance. And if you do trash a bearing, knock it out and replace it and you're back to normal. As the others have noted, the big draw back can be the requirement for special tools for maintenance. Another plus for cartridge bearing hubs is, many can be easily converted to other axle standards. Something that usually isn't doable with a cup and cone hub.

    Anyway, your call. A quality cup and cone hub can be every bit as durable as a cartridge bearing hub. The key is maintenance and proper adjustment. As mtnbiker72 said, I wouldn't hesitate to go with an XTR hub. They are nice, durable and of good quality. My preference is for cartridge bearing hubs anymore, but a CC hub isn't a deal breaker for me either.

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  10. #10
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    also, i think it is worth noting properly tensioning and adjusting a cartrige bearing hub is a bit easier than a cup and cone.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by b-kul View Post
    also, i think it is worth noting properly tensioning and adjusting a cartrige bearing hub is a bit easier than a cup and cone.
    disagree all cup/cone hubs adjust the same way and i can do it in less than a minute. some of the through axle cup and cone hubs take longer but the run of the mill one is dead easy.

  12. #12
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    Cup and cone can require a bit of adjustment[ I loctite mine ] but are cheap and quiet especially compared to Hope rear. XT m775 rear,at 340gms, is also very light. Just need a cheap alligator CL adapter if you don't want to run shimano discs.

    For my own wheels I use XT M775 rear and Hope front. Both are very cheap at Chain reaction Cycles compared to USA online retailers.

  13. #13
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    The real problem with cup and cone is that often the cup part of the bearing is not replaceable. Not sure on the newer XTR stuff but up to a few years ago all you could replace was the cone and balls. If the cup races become pitted you need to chuck the whole hub out.

    This is not a problem with cartridge designs.

    BUT, the XTR hubs are incredibly slick when adjusted right.

  14. #14
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    If I were you and unless I was very mechanically inclined I'd stick to sealed bearing hubs, a lot less maintenance. Also adjusting cup and cones hubs is not so easy and if by chance you don't get it right and don't realise it and ride the wheel like that for a bit you can easily toast the internals of the hub and then you have to buy a whole new hub, instead of just bearings like a sealed hub would need. I've had my WTB speeddisc hubs (rebadged American Classics) for going on 4 years now and they have worked fine, front bearings now need replacing, but that wa sbecause I experimented and removed the alu internal spacer between thebearing and over did the preload on them. Have a set of Hopes for 3 years and they're also still going strong, only maintenance I've had to do is replace the freehub bearings which I somehow managed to mangle - I do occassionall remove the freehub and check it and add/refresh the grease from time to time.
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  15. #15
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    Didn't see this come up, but it should be clarified:
    "Sealed" hubs:
    99% of the hubs you find on bikes everywhere are "sealed." Seems like this term is used by companies to suggest that they are offering something of quality. Shimano hubs are sealed hubs, just as cartridge type hubs are "sealed" in one way or another. If you want to distinguish between the two common types of hubs, the terms "Cup & cone" or "loose bearing" hubs are best suited for Shimano and others like these, while "Cartridge bearing" hubs works for the other type (CK, Hadley, Hope, etc). Just trying to get our terminology straight.

    As for which is better, it's a matter of preference. I like the fancier cartridge hubs because I don't very often have to work on them. When I use Shimanos, I retension the bearings appropriately before mounting the wheels. I've found that this increases the lifespan of the hubs, and reduces the chance that they will freeze up on me (again, miles away from my vehicle ). I have no interest in carrying cone wrenches out on rides with me.
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  16. #16
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    drag

    I'm curious if anyone has measured how much drag the various hub designs have. It would seem that the loud CK hubs with many points of engagement would have more drag than say a quiet Shimano XT or Mavic hub with half the number of engagement points.

  17. #17
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    When I first started looking at replacing my Deore hubs with something "fancier" back in 2004, the general consensus I read and heard from my LBS guys was that cartridge bearing hubs have a slight amount more drag, especially when they are new (due to new, tight seals). My Hadley hubs have several thousand miles on them now, and I'm on just my second set of bearings, and they roll forever in the stand, probably as well as my wife's Deore hubs do. I'd guess that the amount of drag in any of these hubs will have much more to do with the condition they're in, than with which type of bearing it has (loose bearing hubs with pits in the cones don't roll all that well, ya know?).

    As for the freehub drag, that's a different set of concerns all together, but one thing is for sure: You won't get any freehub drag if you keep pedaling.
    Eat, ride, eat, rest, repeat.

  18. #18
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    I use cartridge type bearings exclusively on my bikes these days, but my reasoning is that cartridge bearings are cheap and long lasting.
    Back in the day, I did around 100.000km on a set of Shimano 105 hubs, we are talking the nineties model. They performed well during their entire service life, and the only reason they were replaced, was that the bike got stolen.
    They did however require frequent maintenance.


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  19. #19
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    My training wheelset is XTR hubs laced to stans rims. They are gorgeous hubs and are absolutely beautiful inside, but they do require some more maintenance. Once adjusted they feel awesome, in fact they have less bearing drag than my dt 240 race wheels when you spin the axles with your fingers. Of course that does not mean dick in the real world, but if those hubs speak to you and you dont my doing a little hub overhauling they are some of the nicest hubs on the market IMO. Mine have a ton of miles on them over the last 3 years and look new inside.

  20. #20
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    I have never coasted faster than when I was on XTR hubs...

  21. #21
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    Before I started mountain biking in 2000, I got to know the difference in bearings on roller blades. The Sealed Cartridge bearings were always best on them, especially since they kept dirt out. In 2000 I started biking, and pretty much had cheap bikes up until 2009. In 2009 I finally decided it was time to buy a good bike. To my surprise, the good bike I bought-the only difference between it and the cheaper bikes was the sealed cartridge bearing at the crank. The wheels still had the cup and cone! I was disappointed, but rode it anyways for about a year. Since I was upgrading everything else on this bike, I bought a new wheelset with sealed cartridge bearings. Right away, it felt much more stable and went around curves without washing out so easy. And coasting was just awesome- coasting much farther than the cup and cone bearings. Over the years I had always tried to make the cup and cone bearings work-by keeping them greased and properly adjusted.But the sealed cartridge bearings win out. My speed almost doubled and I wasnt so worn out after every ride. Its as different as night and day, and I wouldn't buy another bike that has cup and cone bearings again. Sealed Cartridge bearings are the ONLY way to go for me!!

  22. #22
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    ^ That had absolutely nothing to do with cup/cone vs sealed. Sounds like you had extremely bad hubs and wheels. Cant blame a bad wheel for not working as well as a good wheel.

    Its kinda weird how often maintenance and cup/cone comes up.. About once a year is enough for cup/cone, and once set you shouldnt have to touch them. I can clean, relube and adjust a shimano hub in 15 minutes or so. They're basically maintenance free compared to the rest of the bike. If im going to tear apart the frame and suspension to overhaul them, doing a hub too doesnt seem too bad.

    Im on sealed hubs now, mostly just-because. I busted out my old deore hub yesterday. It has polished cones and the highest grade bearing I could find (G25). These things are ridiculous smooth. I forgot just how smooth this hub was. Sure it weighs 800 pounds, but its just butter. My 2 sealed hubs (WTB and a bitex) dont roll nearly as well, the wtb just flat out felt slower. My dt swiss hub is comparable or equal.

    If you're talking cup and cone, its gotta be a shimano hub. The other brands dont build them to the same level of quality. Im tempted to build up a wheel with an SLX hub just because how incredibly smooth these things are.

  23. #23
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    There is no reason for you hating here. My post had everything to do in comparing cup and cone to sealed cartridge bearings. I also stated that I always kept up the maintence on the cup and cone bearings., but you even skipped over that too. I was merely stating what experience I went through, and if that offended you somehow well sorry. No need to show your hate on here!







    Quote Originally Posted by One Pivot View Post
    ^ That had absolutely nothing to do with cup/cone vs sealed. Sounds like you had extremely bad hubs and wheels. Cant blame a bad wheel for not working as well as a good wheel.

    Its kinda weird how often maintenance and cup/cone comes up.. About once a year is enough for cup/cone, and once set you shouldnt have to touch them. I can clean, relube and adjust a shimano hub in 15 minutes or so. They're basically maintenance free compared to the rest of the bike. If im going to tear apart the frame and suspension to overhaul them, doing a hub too doesnt seem too bad.

    Im on sealed hubs now, mostly just-because. I busted out my old deore hub yesterday. It has polished cones and the highest grade bearing I could find (G25). These things are ridiculous smooth. I forgot just how smooth this hub was. Sure it weighs 800 pounds, but its just butter. My 2 sealed hubs (WTB and a bitex) dont roll nearly as well, the wtb just flat out felt slower. My dt swiss hub is comparable or equal.

    If you're talking cup and cone, its gotta be a shimano hub. The other brands dont build them to the same level of quality. Im tempted to build up a wheel with an SLX hub just because how incredibly smooth these things are.

  24. #24
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    Nothing to do with hate. Dont take it personal.. frankly what you typed is impossible. You cant gain speed going from one good hub to another, cup/cone, sealed, or any other system. If you really felt a big difference, your original wheelset was trashed. Had nothing to do with the inherent qualities of a cup/cone hub.

    Stability of a wheelset has all sorts of factors that have nothing to do with a hubs bearings. Even you claimed you were on cheap bikes until you got something better. Your experience is more about cheap gear than cup/cones.

    Its not an attack on you by any means.. but yes, your experience had nothing to do with cup/cone! Ive had a ton of cup/cone hubs that rolled horribly too, cheap bikes with cheap parts.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darrelr View Post
    The wheels still had the cup and cone! I was disappointed, but rode it anyways for about a year. Since I was upgrading everything else on this bike, I bought a new wheelset with sealed cartridge bearings. Right away, it felt much more stable and went around curves without washing out so easy. And coasting was just awesome- coasting much farther than the cup and cone bearings. Over the years I had always tried to make the cup and cone bearings work-by keeping them greased and properly adjusted.But the sealed cartridge bearings win out. My speed almost doubled and I wasnt so worn out after every ride.
    One Pivot is right (and you are confusing someone very politely disagreeing with you with 'hate'). Your conclusions are simply not plausible. You can't "double your speed" because of cartridge vs loose bearings.

    Also, friction from a hub is not going to change bike stability or how your wheels wash out (the latter is down to riding technique and tyre choice).

    It sounds like there's something wrong fundamentally wrong with your equipment setup rather than an issue of bearing type.

    For what it's worth, I've ridden good quality hubs on both bearing types (Hopes and higher end Shimanos). Bearing type has no bearing (haha) on ride characteristics. The Hopes were noisy, but that's down the the mechanism and not bearing. The XTRs spin longer when the bike is in a workstand, but it's not particularly noticeable on the trail.
    Last edited by womble; 02-18-2012 at 10:44 PM.

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